Cuomo Stays Out of Convention Limelight

11:21 AM, Sep 6, 2012   |    comments
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
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By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief

CHARLOTTE -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be at the Democratic National Convention for a Thursday morning speech to New York delegates and to attend President Barack Obama's acceptance speech.

And then he'll go back to New York that night.

As buzz surrounds the popular Cuomo as a possible presidential candidate in 2016, Cuomo is taking pains to stay clear of the national spotlight. The conventions are often a springboard for higher office, as Obama showed in his rousing 2004 keynote address.

Cuomo, though, is keeping his focus on his job as governor, state officials in Charlotte said, despite his success in New York.

"If you look at what's been done in the last two years, I think anyone who wouldn't think he would be mentioned (as a presidential candidate) certainly is not paying attention to what's happening," said Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy.

Duffy said Cuomo has never mentioned a presidential run.

"Not publicly, not privately," Duffy said. "Not in his private moments have I ever heard him mention anything about this."

Cuomo has avoided the national talk shows and rarely leaves the state. He attended a fundraiser last year in California after same-sex marriage was legalized; he returned to New York the same night.

"He'd be a wonderful presidential candidate. I think Governor Cuomo has done an outstanding job. I am so proud of him specifically on our issue today, marriage equality," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand after speaking to delegates Wednesday about same-sex marriage.

Polls in New York show that Cuomo's favorability rating is about 70 percent, which is unrivaled in the country. He has been praised for working with Republicans, closing major budget gaps and making New York the largest state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Some New York delegates said Cuomo isn't unknown. He is also a prodigious fundraiser; he had $19 million in his campaign account in July.

"He was a cabinet secretary; he is governor of one of the most important states in the country; his father was a national figure. I think people know Andrew Cuomo," said Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, Monroe County.

Irene Stein, the head of the Democratic Rural Conference in New York, which has supported Cuomo in each of his election bids, said Cuomo is taking the right approach.

"It's logical to think he would be (considered for president) because he has done such a superb job," said Stein, who chairs the Tompkins County Democratic Committee. "And I think he understands how to manage government to achieve results in a way that few politicians do."

Cuomo has talked about how jumping into the potential presidential fray could affect his ability to lead New York.

He's seen it up close: His father and three-term Gov. Mario Cuomo gave a memorable keynote address at the 1984 Democratic convention, then wrestled with running for president in 1988 and 1992. He chose not to run.

"I've seen this movie before," Cuomo told reporters in April.

"Once you starting saying, 'Let's talk political, my own politics, my own aspirations,' it can become, not just distracting that it takes time, but it can become confusing and frustrating. And is this now a political agenda or a governmental agenda?" Cuomo explained.

In 2000, as Cuomo geared up for his first run for governor in 2002, he was active at the convention in Los Angeles. He dropped out just days before the gubernatorial primary.

Cuomo said he was at the 2000 convention as a member of the Clinton administration helping to elect Al Gore as president. Cuomo served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"I went to many, many conventions for many, many years. And I understand that," Cuomo said last month. "My job now is governor of the state of New York. That's what I'm doing."

On the convention floor this week, some delegates from other states either had praise for the first-term governor or didn't know anything about him.

"Actually, I haven't heard of him," said Omar Hernandez of San Antonio. "New York I don't pay too much attention to. It's too far away from me."

He said he hopes his city's mayor, Julian Castro, who gave a well-received keynote address Tuesday night, might run for president. Others mentioned on the Democratic side include former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, now secretary of state, and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who spoke at the convention.

Neil Patel, an Ohio delegate, lit up when asked if he knew about Cuomo.

"Cuomo is doing a great job so far," Patel said, adding there would likely be many strong candidates in 2016.

James Peterson, a delegate from Iowa, the first presidential caucus state, said he was aware of Mario Cuomo and was aware that Cuomo was having positive results in New York.

"He's articulate, he's intelligent, he knows the issues, he's developed platform positions on the issues, and I think he would be a uniter like Barack Obama has been," Peterson, 67, said.

But Bonnie Brown, an Iowa delegate sitting next to Peterson, said she didn't know Cuomo and has another favorite in 2016: Clinton.

"I think after Barack Obama and all the things he has done for women, I think Hillary Clinton would be a good person to keep going with the women's rights," Brown, 22, said.

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